Monday, October 19, 2009

Growing pains - a parental perspective

The first few years is easy. Keep them alive. Well...maybe not EASY but at least there is a clear directive and we generally have the skills to manage it (aside from any wonky biological factors that may unexpectedly screw with us). And you go along for a few years and you think you're doing soooo well...

And then they grow up and turn into real little people with little uncontrollable personalities.

And then you get the pleasure of the day the kindergarten teacher ambushes you with the news that your child "is making bad choices about which behaviors to imitate"...

or the first grade teacher shares the news that your child is "spending a lot of time out in the hall for excessive talking"...

or the second grade teacher sends home the weekly report that your child is "orally commenting on other students' incorrect answers."

And what do you do with that? The baby thing is EASY compared to this! You wipe a snotty nose. You give Tylenol for a fever. You're sure to try new foods slowly to keep an eye out for allergic reactions. But have no idea what to do with this.

So you ground the kid. And then he flips out one day at after school pick-up time...and refuses to leave...because he "is NOT getting grounded again." And you think you're being too harsh, so you tell him he can earn his privileges back by making it through a day without talking (getting all his work done). And then he doesn't even make it one day and you begin to wonder...what the hell?!?!?!

And then people start with the analysis and the helpful suggestions and you want to scream...DO YOU REALLY THINK I'M NOT SMART ENOUGH TO HAVE THOUGHT OF THAT?!?! And then you calm down and realize they're just trying to be helpful and, really, your child IS the one who is misbehaving...and you're posting blog posts where every sentence starts with "and" maybe they're justified in thinking you ARE that stupid.


The American Academy of Pediatrics book only goes through age 5! There is no resource for when your kid is scary smart and you worry that maybe he's smarter than you (or maybe there are and I'm just not looking in the right bookstore). The teacher suggests a book...Discipline Without Stress, Punishments or Rewards. I read a few pages and I call bullshit. "A more effective approach than consequences is the use of contingencies." Seriously? Bribery? That's the best ya got, doc? Guess's just semantics. He can earn his privileges if he just behaves for ONE FREAKING DAY. I know he CAN do it...he's done it before. But honestly...I'm not going to hold my breath (and no, I didn't tell him that...I was all, "yay, rah, you can do it!").

I did like this quote from the teacher's book though..."Stress is directly related to perceiving the world as manageable or unmanageable." Ya think?!?! Maybe I should send the good doctor my blog to read. But I digress...

Positivity and choice are GREAT concepts. But how about for the child that consistently makes the wrong choices? All this choice crap does is leave him (and his mother) feeling like a failure. And isn't that just great fodder for therapy later in life?

Parent-Teacher conferences aren't until the second week of November but I'm afraid I'm not going to last that long. See, I know my child. Surprising, but true. He has always enjoyed being the center of attention. Even more, he loves making the crowd laugh. While this may serve him well in a future career as a stand-up comedian, it's not really a great personality for second grade. And while I do want him to be respectful of other people and be mindful of classroom rules, I don't want to extinguish that spark of individuality he has.

I spent SO many years being afraid of the rules...being "the good girl"...that becoming an adult has been somewhat painful. It's been a difficult accepting that not everyone is watching me, sizing me up, judging my behavior against some mysterious standard of acceptability. I don't want that for my son.

And there is a part of me that resents that I have to worry about this. I mean, I've got enough on my plate keeping these boys entertained enough that they don't seriously maim one another in the evenings...where is the teacher for that? Can I call her and get her help? Nope. We're on our own. So how are we responsible for his classroom behavior? Shouldn't that be...I don't know...HER job to manage? To teach him more than teach him social skills and the rules of appropriate behavior for the classroom (and someday, hopefully, the work environment)?

Yes...I KNOW I need to reinforce the lessons taught in class. And I DO! I swear! This isn't one of those I'm-a-terrible-parent posts. Because I'm doing a pretty damn good job and I'm not so concerned with that. I just need ideas to GET THROUGH to my impress upon him the importance of good behavior without crushing his spirit.

I beginning to think that they don't tell you this stuff deliberately. Because if they told you about this...if that AAP book went beyond age 5...everybody would be too scared to ever have babies.


Kathy McC said...

Not that you need assvice, but here's mine. :)

I went to a workshop held by a "parenting coach" from Celebrate Calm last year, and his approach has been enormously helpful for us.

Aaron is a high-energy, high-needs child and he is very smart. We just needed to find the right way to interact with him without losing our shit.

I highly recommend visiting the website for Celebrate Calm ( and sign up for the free e-newsletter.

I bought the CD's, which are not cheap, but they've also helped us a ton. But start with the e-newsletter. There are a lot of tips and situational info that I find helpful.

(((Hugs))) you're not alone.

Jillian said...

Catherine - I feel ya. K and I are at the end of our ropes 90% of the time with our 9 year old.

Like Sam, she *can* control herself if she wants to... but she has an argument for everything.

So I'm no help, but I will be checking out Kathy's link there because, losing my shit? That's what I do. All.Day.Long. It's not good for my blood pressure lol

Aurelia said...

I already gave you some assvice via facebook message--and I really didn't think you hadn't already thought of this, or that you were stupid. I was just trying to help!

I think you are incredibly smart and really really with it, and I know that you will work on some of this.

But in the end, you might need some more help with it than just us cheering you on.

Anyway, I didn't give you this link, just leaving it in case it might be helpful.

It's a magazine, but really more of a website all sorts of things like LD, or gifted kids or ADDers and it has interesting ideas about getting kids to do things. It discusses everything from behaviour to books and resources and techniques and oh heck, everything, and not just for people with ADD, but for any parent of any kid.

This one also has some stuff you might find helpful?

And yeah, making sure he doesn't have any physical issues would help. I know a kid with chronic glue ear who behaved horrendously until one day when it was diagnosed and cleared up.

Take care, I'm here if you ever want to chat.

Michele said...

Tell me to butt out... But here is my comment.

Perhaps he is bored to death in school and this is how he is responding. Are there any gifted classes he can go in? I know that made a difference for me in the grades that had them, and my husband dealt with his boredom when he had good teachers, but getting harder assignments. Schools teach to the middle; if you are smarter, it is easy to get bored. Our childhood experiences are one of the reasons we plan to homeschool.

KLTTX said...

Here from Dawn's blog. Your son sounds just like mine. He too like to be the class comedian and his first ever report card (he's in kindergarten) says that he has impulse contol issues - great! We are doing something similar - he loses his privleges (favorite toy and tv) on days when he has a color change. We are also doing the "bribery" thing too. For example, if he goes all 5 days this week(he's only done it once beofre) without a color change, he gets to open a toy that he has that we havn't let him open yet.

Holley said...

I completely agree with--This trying to get them to be responsible is tough.

No words of wisdom

Sweet Coalminer said...

Sigh. I don't know that my kids are scary smart, but I do know already that teacher comments irritate the heck out of me.

I am with you on bribery. The parent class I'm being forced to take for Mimi's school encourages it too. It smacks of "do whatever the f you have to to get these kids in line." Sorry for the struggle. Sam is a good guy. seems like just yesterday he was still co-sleeping with you guys. I am going to make a deal with myself not to take future teacher comments so seriously. I want my kids to do well in school, but not when school is whacked. Mimi is slated to start kindergarten next year, and it's a 6.5 hour day. I think she should get a reward for making it that long. It's a long day for small kids and it's way more academic than when we were kids and I think, honestly, the teachers here anyway, care less.